Bontu Melka and baby boy with husband Deme Tesfay.

A Model of Generosity: Honoring Mary in May

Mary is a deeply treasured saint in the Catholic tradition. Many of us carry a strong devotion to her in our heart and desire to emulate her faithfulness and “yes” at the Annunciation. From her joyful song at the Visitation to her sorrows at the Crucifixion, Mary remained true to the will of the Heavenly Father, giving us powerful examples of holiness, devotion and sacrifice.

As we enter into this month honoring the life of Mary, we celebrate her as a model of generosity as well.  

Why is May the Month of Mary?

Since the 13th century, May has been set aside in the liturgical calendar to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s possible the month was chosen in order to replace pagan practices, but there is also reason to believe it was chosen because in the northern hemisphere this month displays spring beauty at its peak. Since the Church upholds Mary as the pinnacle of creation, it is right to honor her in the midst of such beauty.

Popes through the centuries have promoted this long-held tradition of setting aside the month of May to honor Mary. In May 2002, Saint Pope John Paul II said, “Today we begin the month dedicated to Our Lady, a favorite of popular devotion. In accord with a long-standing tradition of devotion, parishes and families continue to make the month of May a ‘Marian’ month, celebrating it with many devout liturgical, catechetical and pastoral initiatives!”

Popes are not alone in celebrating the life of Mary. Saints through the centuries have held deep love for this holy woman, many going to great lengths to promote devotion to her among the Church’s faithful. Among these holy men and women, some who promoted Our Lady ardently were Saint Maximillian Kolbe (the Saint of Auschwitz), Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (the Mellifluous Doctor), and Saint Louis de Montfort.  

In fact, Saint Louis de Montfort said, “The greatest saints, those richest in grace and virtue will be the most assiduous in praying to the most Blessed Virgin, looking up to her as the perfect model to imitate and as a powerful helper to assist them.”

With Mary as a “perfect model to imitate”, we look to the ways she served others, generously giving of herself even in extraordinary circumstances.

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Woman holding her baby.

A Model of Generosity: Honoring Mary in May

At Cross Catholic Outreach, we pattern our mission after the words of Mary’s song – especially the point where she rejoices in the Lord’s kindness toward the poor and humble (Luke 1:46-55). These powerful words actually reflected the actions of Mary herself. Despite having just been told she would be pregnant with the Son of God, she “arose and went with haste” (Luke 1:39) to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was also experiencing a miraculous pregnancy. Her sharing of her cousin’s joys and challenges in the months before John’s birth were a wonderful act of compassion and generosity.

In light of Mary’s care for her cousin, we are grateful to be a support to several Catholic ministries that work with pregnant women and bless them materially and spiritually. One of these ministry partners is Saint Gabriel Catholic Health Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The love it shows to the women it serves is a tribute to Mary and her compassionate responses when others are in need.

Bekelu Gibisa was one of the many women who know the importance of that love. Five years ago, she arrived in Addis Ababa pregnant with her first child and feared facing great risk because she could not afford professional medical support. Then, Bekelu discovered Saint Gabriel Catholic Health Center, run by the Brothers of Good Works, and saw it as an answer to prayer. With their help, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Since then, the center has ministered to her through a second birth, this time of a healthy baby boy.

During all of Bekelu’s visits to the health center, she received prenatal, delivery and postnatal care. This included counseling and health education about different communicable and non-communicable diseases, danger signs during pregnancy and the use of breastfeeding. With this comprehensive care, Bekelu and 438 mothers like her, have been able to give birth to live, healthy babies in the past year.

Looking at her two strong, healthy children, Bekelu proclaimed in gratitude, “I am so grateful to the health center staff for what they did for me together with [our] Holy Savior and [the] Virgin Mary”.

How You Can Help

During this month celebrating Mary – particularly her visit to her cousin on May 31 (the Feast of the Visitation) – we hope you will choose to emulate her generosity by helping ministries serving women bearing the gift of life. Your support of Cross Catholic Outreach empowers ministries like the St. Gabriel Catholic Health Center by covering a portion of their operational expenses, including staff salaries, medicines and medical supplies. This act of compassion allows them, and other partners worldwide, to offer quality care to the poor and vulnerable.

Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2024, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.